Summer is the time to reset your work/life balance. It is also the opportunity to tune the business based on H1 findings and refresh your partner strategy. I encourage teams to make the most of their vacation while also setting “fast start” expectations upon their return. This includes aligning partners for full speed execution in H2.
Aligning the Partner Channel with Long Range Sales Cycles
Mid-year planning affords the opportunity to take a broader view of the business. Consider customer buying patterns, your typical sales cycle, as well as the partner-influenced steps that lead to a purchasing decision. While it is tempting to focus on mature sales deals, use this planning period to consider all stages of your sales funnel as well as alliance partner influence. Activate reseller, integrator, and development partner incentives based on customer buying patterns and the chain of partner events that lead to a sale.
Refresh Your Alliance Partners
Summer is a good time to engage your alliance partners in joint business planning. This should include alignment with product roadmaps and marketing motions. Educate top channel partners on campaign themes and renew development partner commitments for timely support of your product releases. See the Partner Planning and Management post for more guidance.
Align with Platform Vendor Rhythms
When upstream platform vendors refresh their product roadmap and marketing campaigns, convey how you can represent unique stories that support their market messaging and elicit their commitment to place you in customer-facing marketing channels. Take advantage of new budgets if your platform vendor has a summer fiscal year (e.g., Microsoft’s fiscal year starts July 1). You don’t want to miss the FYQ1 window after all joint marketing funds have been allocated.
Plot Your Competitive Course
Consider the rhythm of business of your top competitors. Do they have a high-pressure enterprise sales environment where customer deals spike at the end of their fiscal year? If so, those accounts are ripe for disruption. Targeted incentives in the face of maintenance contract renewals (in competitor FYQ4) can assert your consideration for future deals and force deeper discounting from your competitors.
Competitors experience employee movement at the fiscal year changeover (as performance reviews are completed and bonuses are fulfilled). Corresponding changes in partner account management and partner program adjustments afford a partner recruitment opportunity. Test for partner interest among those historically aligned with your competitors. Offer a simple onboarding program to encourage technical integration and trial. Getting a foot in the door may open other opportunities over time and if competitors are complacent about partner satisfaction, you have an opportunity to exceed expectations and win over influential partners.
Assess Partner Productivity
Many ISVs host their annual partner events in the summer (e.g., Microsoft WPC, VMworld, Red Hat Summit). Whether you are attending a platform partner event or hosting your own, use the time to assess your partnerships and where you can realize the best ROI from your efforts. Leverage the structured networking at platform partner events to establish face to face credibility with potential partners. It is a lot easier to engage afterwards after you’ve made that personal connection.
Host your own annual partner event to showcase good partner behavior (e.g., awards, video, and testimonials) and clarify your company vision & how partners can participate. Form crisp calls to action for each partner type in your ecosystem.
When assessing your partner ecosystem, start by considering the addressable market and what is possible (instead of incremental growth over last year’s forecast). What has changed in the environment that would prompt you to take a more scalable or higher touch approach? How are you leveraging and differentiating through technology trends (e.g., cloud computing, mobile, social networking)? Minimize turnover of alliance partners. It is easier to dial back the level of support than to explicitly change tiers or program levels (downgrades rarely engender greater partner loyalty).
In sum, use the relatively slow summer months to assess the business strategy, align partners with long range sales cycles, reinvigorate your partner channel, and deliver clear messaging to instill coordinated execution in H2.